Alcohol abuse treatment
came out of the early recognition that not all people who drank too much alcohol fit in the simplistic notion that you were either an alcoholic or not. Even the man who was one of the founding fathers of the disease concept of alcoholism, E. M. Jellinek specified that there were probably 5 different types. Even he struggled with the idea that there seemed to be different types of alcoholics. In his 1960 book The Disease Concept of Alcoholism he identified five different types of alcoholism:
Alpha alcoholism: the earliest stage of the disease, manifesting the purely psychological continual dependence on the effects of alcohol to relieve bodily or emotional pain. This is the “problem drinker”, whose drinking creates social and personal problems. While there are significant problems, these people can stop if they really want to; thus, argued Jellinek, they have not lost control, and as a consequence, do not have a “disease”.
Beta alcoholism: These are the heavy drinkers that drink a lot, almost every day. They do not have physical addiction and do not suffer withdrawal symptoms. People in this group do not have a “disease”.
Gamma alcoholism: involving acquired tissue tolerance, physical dependence, and loss of control. This is the AA alcoholic, who is very much out of control, and does, by Jellinek’s classification, have a “disease”.
Delta alcoholism: as in Gamma alcoholism, but with inability to abstain, instead of loss of control.
Epsilon alcoholism: the most advanced stage of the disease, manifesting as dipsomania, or periodic alcoholism.